Teaching ESL
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What's your teaching philosophy?
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Author:  mesmark [ Thu Apr 26, 2007 9:43 pm ]
Post subject:  What's your teaching philosophy?

I've been thinking about my main underlying philosophy behind what I choose to teach and how I teach. I think that my philosophy changes and shifts a bit with time, experience, and knowledge.

Anyway, I learned a lot by just sitting down and trying to understand it. I thought it might be a good idea to ask other teachers what their philosophy is. It might be a great learning experience for everyone.

So, if you can give us your philosophy, please do. You can limit it to a philosophy on teaching a certain small point, grammar, vocabulary, classroom management, an overall philosophy, whatever.

Here's what I think my current overall philosophy is on teaching children:

Children learn their own language by memorizing a finite number of constituents (nouns, verbs, adjectives, articles, phrases, preps...) They use the knowledge of these constituents (knowledge which is acquired naturally) to construct an infinite amount of new and unique sentences. They do not memorize individual sentences and regurgitate them when the appropriate time arises.

So, taking that stance, I try to solidify small units of language; vocabulary and syntactic relationships. I don't advance to more complex grammatical structures until the smaller units are fully functional. That way, students have knowledge of the smaller constituents and can construct an infinite number of new unique sentences (ideally.)

ex. - each of the following is taught individually as single chunks:
    There is a dog.
    This is a dog with blue spots
    It's under the tree


I'll teach these singularly for a year or more. Then, I start to put them together for the students (modeling but not asking for production.) After a few months, students start to do the same, but they are flexible and able to create not just what I have said in that context but their own unique sentences.

Obviously, it's not that easy and they don't take off and fly without a lot of help and time, but that's the idea behind it all.

I don't think it differs from others too much, except for the time aspect and teaching new language solo. Most of the books and curriculums I have seen tend to add the new grammar or new chunks onto the old ones immediately, presumably to review old structures.

Author:  funwithstories [ Fri Apr 27, 2007 5:16 pm ]
Post subject: 

Great thread!

My teaching philosophy (now) is focusing on meaning.

1. Let students focus on the meaning of language and work on production later.

2. Presenting the language in a way that has meaning to the students. Take away the drills and fill in the blank exercises and instead compare and contrast students and their interests. Use props and have show how language can be used while manipulating the objects. Present the language in a story.

3. Making learning meaningful by teaching the students not the curriculum. Teaching only to receive high marks on an exam is not meaningful. What they learn will no longer have meaning after the test is over.

Author:  Azza [ Sat Apr 28, 2007 8:45 pm ]
Post subject: 

i think the biggest thing that you can go with is teaching kids stuff that they find interesting and can easily relate to. they will want to remember things that they think is funny or relates directly to them.

kids who are 6 to 8 years old are very self absorbed and like to talk about themselves such as what they feel, what they like/don't like, what they can do, what they have or things they have done, what they want and what they know. so when i teach these ages i tend to focus on these things. i think these are all very useful sentence structures that everybody uses in daily conversations and plus kids like to talk about them.

then once they have mastered all the vocabulary as it relates to them, then we can start using the vocab in more broader situations or how it relates to other people. we can start changing the focus from "I,I,I" to "he","she" or "they". by the time a kid hits 9 to 12, they are starting to compare their choices with the other kids, so we can begin to give reasons for their choices or the other kids choices.

Author:  smy2brazil [ Sat May 05, 2007 9:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: What's your teaching philosophy?

mesmark wrote:

Children learn their own language by memorizing a finite number of constituents (nouns, verbs, adjectives, articles, phrases, preps...) They use the knowledge of these constituents (knowledge which is acquired naturally) to construct an infinite amount of new and unique sentences.


This is why small kids put regular forms on irregular verbs. It's actually quite interesting that a kid learning to talk would say that he "hurted" his head, when he never heard that before. He did however sense that "ed" is a way to express the past. From there, his parents correct him when there are exceptions.

hitted, catched, runned, ated... these are all errors that show how grammar is acquired by small kids.

Author:  hansi20 [ Fri Jun 08, 2007 7:07 pm ]
Post subject: 

2
Quote:
. Presenting the language in a way that has meaning to the students. Take away the drills and fill in the blank exercises and instead compare and contrast students and their interests. Use props and have show how language can be used while manipulating the objects. Present the language in a story.

I definitely agree with the second part, ie presenting language in a meaningful fun way. Teaching young children sometimes feels like being an actor :)
BUT i don't agree with not using drills. I use them a lot and it works brilliantly to remember whole sequences of words or sentences. The thing is to do it in a FUN way: you could use brainjogs, patting and clapping, throwing the ball, use rhyming, chants, NURSERY RHYMES! (nursery rhymes taught to young children are drills introduced by repeated hearing; they use rythm, music and body language and that's why it makes them so attractive). I tried nursery rhymes with school children that had big problems with producing fluent sentences (because they were shy and from other reasons). It worked great: when they were learning to produce gestures while saying the chant, they forgot they had problems with spoken English and it was their first time they fluently produced longer sentences.

My underlying philosophy in teaching is to make my students LOVE learning the language , give them the feeling of success and confidence in using English. I love hearing them say new words and sentences and it keeps me going:)

Author:  smy2brazil [ Sat Jun 09, 2007 2:15 am ]
Post subject: 

If by drills you mean repitition, then drills are a must. Now creative teachers can make their kids repeat something dozens of times and not even think of it as work. That is the purpose behind most of MES-English's games.

Author:  funwithstories [ Mon Jun 11, 2007 8:53 am ]
Post subject: 

I too think repetitions are necessary. Chants and rhymes are also effective tools. By drills I meant a worksheet that requires students to fill out verb agreeements etc, with no emphasis on the meaning of the sentences.
An example

I like tennis.
He ___ tennis.
She ____ tennis.
They _____ tennis.

The words like and tennis have little value in this exercise because their meanings are not important in completing it.

It's much better to to talk about a favorite character using 'he likes' and continuously point out the 's' on 'likes'. Or to compare a student to this character and stress the 'you like' and 'he likes' etc in the sentence.

Point out the grammar and show how it changes the meaning, not create random sentences just to teach grammar.

Author:  hansi20 [ Mon Jun 11, 2007 7:36 pm ]
Post subject: 

As for teaching grammar, i think it's more complex. Before a certain age I don't think you should teach children conscious grammar. That'a when you talk about their favourite character creating as many senetences as you can using He likes... etc. You expose them to the language, make them repeat it and use it in a meaningful context.
But when they grow older, their knowledge needs to be systematised as the grammar issue becomes more problematic. I don't think there's nothing wrong then to create short sentence drills that do not emphasize the meaning (but of course it's not possible to teach grammar without meaning;) ). A perfect example is memorizing irregular verbs; it's just memorizing, isn't it? It's boring, ok, but you can't avoid it. Only then you are able to use them unconsciously.
Learning English is comperatively easy to learning other languages. When i started learning German and French at the age of 9 or 10, we did a lot of drills (every new verb written down like this: I am, you are, and so on) . It was hard work but i think necessary. The German and French verbs have so many irregular patterns that's it not possible to avoid drilling and memorizing, no matter how boring and hard work it is.

Author:  funwithstories [ Tue Jun 12, 2007 4:54 pm ]
Post subject: 

Hansi20,
I agree with you completely about focusing first on context, and also that grammar needs to be taught at some point. Complex ideas are not learned without taking time to notice the patterns or differences.

Mneumonics, rhymes, and chants are ways to help you remember tricky grammar patterns or irregular verbs.

I would like to argue here, however that memorizing rules may not be the easiest nor more effective way to begin to use language unconsciously.
Krashen's website has a lot of articles suggesting that grammar should not take a primary role in teaching languages.

http://www.sdkrashen.com/index.php?cat=6


What he says really goes against a lot of the teaching practices I have encountered in TEFL certification classes and the classroom in Japan.
However, I have always wondered why the Japanese could tell me the grammar rules but could not have a simple conversation. Even in the US,
I know few people who are actually able to use the language based only on classroom instruction.

Admitedly I know very little about the Natural Approach, but it's very curious that TPR and TPRS proponents (of many different languages) cite long-term retention and ability to use the language (reading, writing, speaking and listening) as definite merits in these methods. Some find flaws with the approaches and thus dismiss them. They may not be perfect, but what teaching method is? Whether or not you chose to use these methods in the classroom, I think it's very valuable to take a step back and really evaluate how language is acquired.

Author:  hansi20 [ Tue Jun 12, 2007 8:33 pm ]
Post subject: 

Well, to tell you the truth i never use bare grammar instruction during my classes, mostly because the age group i teach is not grammar aware or even literate :) Yet, somehow they are able to produce fully grammatically correct sentences. The children have this great ability to acquire languages without knowing that they learn. The pattern follows acquiring a mother tongue: repeated hearing, then repeating sounds, words, strings of words and finally more complex sentences. The last thing they learn are all the irregularities (cow -cows, sheep-sheep etc). At some point grammar instruction is essential (age of 10?) but never before you actually teach it in a meaningful context, only as a sum up

Author:  marele [ Tue Jun 12, 2007 11:39 pm ]
Post subject: 

funwithstories wrote:
Hansi20,
I agree with you completely about focusing first on context, and also that grammar needs to be taught at some point.


It is true that one of the best ways to teach children is focusing on context. Everything we teach must have a meaning to them. It is important to use what they already know and what they like and what they are interested in.
I use stories, songs, chants, rhymths... and a lot of games to make them practice the oral.
About grammar, I teach easy structures that are in the story or the songs. I make them more complex when they learn the easy ones.
Well, this is my philosophy.

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